Genetic testing should never be taken lightly, says RCGP

Publication date: 20 March 2019

Responding to a speech to be made by Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock on genetic testing today, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

"Genomic research will have an increasingly important place in shaping the care we are able to provide to patients in the NHS and advances in medical research must be properly evaluated to ensure that they do benefit patients. But we also need to ensure that genomic data is used responsibly, ethically, and in a way that does not increase pressure on the NHS without the appropriate mitigating measures in place to cope with it.

"Many things that will be picked up by genetic testing will be unimportant or of dubious value, and these could leave people unnecessarily confused and distressed. This will undoubtedly lead to an increased number of worried people wanting to visit their GP to discuss their borderline results, at a time when general practice is already struggling to cope with intense demand – and millions of patients are already waiting too long for an appointment.

"GPs will also need training and access to high-quality, up to date resources to learn about the implications of various results in a fast-evolving area of medicine, if they are to be able to support patients appropriately.

"In the case of a patient finding out they are at increased risk of developing a serious or life-changing illness, such as cancer, it is vital that appropriate specialist support is available to them to help them understand the implications of the results.

"Genetic testing should never be taken lightly – we are talking about sensitive patient data, with potentially serious medical and ethical implications for the patient and all their genetic relatives. People really need to consider these implications carefully before they decide to take a genetic test."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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